I hope that by sharing my somewhat unusual story, it may inspire you to think beyond your usual belief systems and in doing so spark a desire within you to discover more about yourself, your work and your own leadership potential.
Ultimately my story is here to serve as a small part of your own journey – to awaken within you some ancient rememberings of who you really are, and connect you with a place that most of us have forgotten. It will help you to understand how my vision of a new way of corporate life has been formed.
I was lying in bed shortly after feeding my young son – when to put it somewhat briefly – a spirit entered my body and spoke to me. This was without a doubt the most intensely physical experience I had ever had. I felt as though I had been plugged into a city power station – and I felt my hands and blankets rise off my body. It was not an experience I could rationalise or intellectualise away. It was, I might add, a strangely familiar experience and my immediate thought was: “Ah, so this is what I have been waiting for all my life”. It was loving and not at all frightening.
In a nutshell, this experience turned my world upside down, for I had tangible and indisputable proof of life after death – that we are more than our physical bodies.
I told no one for a year – as I struggled to understand and deal with it and the resultant fears associated with anything beyond our comprehension. I was a business academic at the time, and was studying for a Masters degree, and this experience was totally beyond anything I had ever come across. After a year of silence, I realised that I could not ignore this incident any longer and decided, at the age of 32 and for the first time in my life, to see a clairvoyant.
And so off I went, and my spiritual journey began. I was led down a path of enormous change as I began to develop my channelling and psychic abilities. I came to know of a much greater world than that in which we currently exist – as I began to interact with beings from other planetary systems and other highly-evolved intelligences. This path led me to work as a spiritual healer and counsellor, where I did much healing work on a soul and emotional level.
Constantly through this period I am asking why. Why would this happen to someone like me? Why would such a typically ‘conventional’ person suddenly be talking to other life forms, seeing energy fields, having psychic surgery performed on her and performing it on others, and seeing white light come from her hands? How on earth was I meant to deal with this?
I watched, as if an observer, as my carefully ordered life was slowly dismantled, so that a new one could take shape. I watched as my friends and family started to drop out of my life, as my marriage started to crumble. I watched as a chasm opened up between my old life and the new self that was forming. It was as though I was being shown a new world, which was making it impossible to live in the old one.
The two sides of me struggled with each other: the business person, trained in logic, structure and certainty, with the spiritual person, who dealt with all that was not physical or structured. Very slowly, over a period of years, I began to integrate and merge the two sides of myself. I followed the classic change model – anger, denial, resistance, grief, depression, to finally acceptance – where I understood that acceptance was to key to evolving into a new and ultimately better way of being.
I underwent great physiological and psychological change as my body learnt to adapt to the new, higher and finer energies that were affecting it. I recognised my own evolution and growth, and the development of an entirely new set of skills. It did put a new slant on the term ‘multi-skilling’.
There were times when I felt truly lost. I could not look to my outside world for answers. I found a wonderful poem which continues to speak to me and others during these very real moments of change. It is based on an old American Indian fable in which a young boy, knowing he has to set off on a journey through the forest, a journey which will change him forever, becomes frightened and asks an elder what should he do if he becomes lost in the forest. The wise elder replies:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen, It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying “Here”.
No two trees are the same to the Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
This poem said to me to stand still and surrender to the process: it will all work itself out.
It said that life is a process which develops into what I now understand is the journey for all of us – to arrive at a calling, a true vocation, where our work engages all aspects of ourselves, our individuality and our soul. In our calling we find our home and our sense of belonging. And so it is that I come before you today.
And yet I’m sure many of you are thinking that your current work does nothing to engage you at a deeper level – that it bears no relation to a calling. What has happened to the issue of ‘work’ – why is it steeped in so much negativity? It is because in the very act of institutionalising work, we create a structure which de-personalises work and re-defines it as a job. A job which is largely seen as a means to rewards, rather than a reward in itself.
I believe it is now time for our organisations to evolve along more spiritual and soulful lines so that we may return to a vocation instead of a job, return to our souls instead of our pay packets. Within our corporate and economic world lies the seat of the world’s power and yet it is governed by rules which largely have nothing to do with spirit or soul, but which instead honour the gods of productivity, competition, scarcity and status. I would suggest that this is not a healthy or particularly sane journey for our world to pursue.
This world of work is largely a vehicle for the masculine way of life. It was formed at a time when a woman’s voice and opinion were secondary to a man’s, when the feminine way of being, represented by vulnerability, emotional expression, collaboration and cooperation, were seen as inferior to the male way of being, which was represented by aggression, competition, rationality and logic.
No system can effectively exist if it continually ignores one side of the equation. We have seen enormous social change with the rise of women and their emergence out of the home into the corporate world. We are witnessing a quiet revolution.
I believe that women have a major role in leadership in our society and bringing it into a new way of being. Men should not fear this but rather welcome the new perspective and balance that women can bring. As women start to permeate our systems, men will reap the benefits. As they are released from the restrictions of their traditional masculine roles, they will have the opportunity to explore new aspects of character and calling.
What is the new way for our institutions? What might a soulful organisation look like? How might it act?
It will be an organisation which honours some connection to the natural world around it. It will recognise that life is about contraction and expansion and not constant regulation and automation. It will recognise that seasons are there for a purpose – that the natural world knows what it is doing – and that the seasons impact upon our ability to perform and our creative talents. It will, for example, be an organisation that conducts strategic planning in spring, rather than in an ad hoc manner depending on the ego whims of the current manager at the helm. It will recognise that to conduct strategic planning sessions in winter, when our souls are in a contraction and resting phase is at odds with the wider world in which we live. Spring is the time for rejuvenation and new growth: it is a time when we are naturally expanding and embracing new concepts.
It will be an organisation which has released the notion that a good worker is one who spends his life at the office. It will be one which has a core amount of hours set as the minimum standard, but which allows flexibility over and above those hours. It will be one which understands to categorise work according to hours is irrelevant. It will, as a matter of course, embrace equity participation, individual work agreements and open accounting procedures. It will honour the souls that feed it, by incorporating such spiritual practices as meditations and blessings before meetings and selected poetry or prose readings. It will allow us to remove ourselves from our ‘culture of busyness’ and instead open us to the pleasures of the spirit – for example solitude, meditation, and intimate relationships with others.
And I hear you say: “An organisation would never do this – would never allow this. How would it make money? And I agree with you – no, the ‘old’ organisation would not, as it has been built around a different set of values. But the new organisation, the holistic organisation of the new millennium will. Because it has a different composition, it has more women as leaders, leaders who have been conditioned differently, and because it exists at a different point in society’s evolution where technology has altered the speed and efficiency of most of our production processes. It will make more money.
It takes great courage to go against established ways of doing things and to forge a new path for work and leadership. But change only ever begins that way. It begins by agitation and dissatisfaction with the status quo – and everywhere around me I see that.
The change to our world of work, the unravelling of our institutions, I would suggest has commenced. We are now seeing our organisations in continual states of chaos as they restructure and downsize again and again. This re-organisation is producing new ways of work such as contracting, outsourcing, and working from home. People are being forced to release their dependency on institutions, on companies, and forge a new way.
New ways means leadership. Soulful organisations will be created by soulful leaders. Leaders who have developed and aligned with their own soul, who have a strong sense of self, who look within for answers rather than to what has gone before. This requires deeper and richer forms of corporate training. It involves re-visiting the power of a good story, a good myth. It involves training which helps to overcome our fears and connect us to ourselves.
In conclusion, I hope to have awakened within you an understanding that we are all shaped by forces much wider and grander than we have come to believe, and that awaiting us is a much greater future than we could have possibly imagined for ourselves. I hope that it has sparked a remembrance of your own soul, that independent and unique part of us which belongs to everyone and yet no one, which gently guides us and makes us whole. Our challenge is to harness that soul quality and develop it, to have the courage to embrace all of our experiences and turn them into our calling, to link our soul with our work and lead ourselves and our organisations into a new way of being. I hope that for a time you have stood still, have befriended your current place of being, called it Here and have let the forest find you.
Excerpted from a presentation made by Robin Elliot to Business New South Wales entitled “Soul, Work & Leadership”,
Robin Elliot’s early work life centred upon human resource management positions in the hospitality, chartered accounting and finance industries. Most recently she held a Lecturing position for six years with Edith Cowan University. Robin specialised in the teaching of human resource management and management at undergraduate and post graduate levels and was engaged in various research and consultancy activities.
Since 1997 Robin has consulted to a variety of companies such as Freehill, Hollingdale & Page, AMP, Westpac and Chevron Asiatic in strategic organisation and management development. In 1998 she established Odin Management Services, with a particular focus on supporting individuals and organisations to reconnect to their spirit and soul.
Robin has a Bachelor of Business (Personnel & Industrial Relations) from Curtin University and a Master of Management (HRM) from the University of Western Australia.
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